NBA East even at 2; Caps-Lightning force Game 7

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN City newsletter) 

LeBron James and the Cavs evened the Eastern Conference finals at 2 victories apiece.
© USA Today Sports Images

Another easy win for LeBron James as the Cleveland Cavaliers even up the NBA Eastern Conference finals. Plus the Washington Capitals force a Game 7 in the NHL, and the New York Yankees remind bettors why they’re on such a tear. Come spend some time in VSiN City!

NBA Playoffs: One great half was enough to keep the Cavs on serve vs. the Celtics

Monday night’s first half of Game 4 in the Eastern Conference finals was just an extension of Game 3. Cleveland led 68-53, after routing Boston Saturday 116-86. The Celtics were able to make it kinda/sort interesting for a few moments in the second half. Not enough horsepower to cover, let alone rally to win. 

Cleveland (-7) 111, Boston 102

2-point Pct: Boston 46%, Cleveland 57%

3-pointers: Boston 9/28, Cleveland 8/23

Free Throws: Boston 23/30, Cleveland 21/29

Rebounds: Boston 37, Cleveland 47

Turnovers: Boston 9, Cleveland 18

Pace: 99.0 (for the series, 93.4, 93.2, 93.6, and 99.0)  

Weird one to try to analyze statistically, because it was really two different games. Cleveland was awesome while scoring 68 first-half points, and fairly lousy while slumping to 43 in the second half. From the Cleveland perspective: great rebounding, horrible turnover differential, great inside attack, disappointing lack of a killer instinct. That was enough to square the series at two wins apiece. But that soft second half was a reminder of what happened in Beantown. Cleveland won’t return to the NBA Finals unless it can win at least once on the road. 

Weird to see the pace jump. You might be thinking it was due to officiating. Fans of both teams were unhappy with the refs. But the 59 combined free throws here was only one more than we saw back in Game 3 with that 93.6 pace factor. Boston had a tendency to hurry shots, which created a lot of “virtual turnovers” because of their weaker rebounding. Fast break scoring finished 10-10, which isn’t exactly a track meet. 

Maybe Game 5 in Boston Wednesday night will finally give us a close encounter. Figures that the first “single-digit” margin in any conference finals game this year (West included) was still a 9-point win that was larger than that most of the night. The market will be near pick-em given the lines in the other games in Boston (each team took a turn as a 1-point favorite). 

The Western Conference finals resume Tuesday night…

Houston at Golden State (9:05 p.m. ET on TNT, Golden State leads 2-1)

Game 1: Golden State (plus 1.5/225.5) 119, Houston 106

Game 2: Houston (-1.5/225) 127, Golden State 105

Game 3: Golden State (-8/226.5) 126, Houston 85

Game 4: Golden State -8.5, total of 224

Andre Igoudala is listed as doubtful as we go to press. Not much of a market reaction to the news. Golden State is so deep that an injury to one star doesn’t impact the overall team outlook. Not quite a must-win for Houston because they technically have time to rally from a 3-1 deficit. But it sure feels like the series will be over if this is a replay of Games 1 and 3. Heck, it already feels like the series is over now. But the Rockets did impress when the Warriors came out flat-footed in G2. 

Not much to preview because the skill sets are locked in place. We’ll recap the box score numbers for you tomorrow. 

NHL Playoffs: Caps stay alive with Game 6 shutout

There will be a seventh game in the Eastern Conference finals after the Washington Capitals beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0 Monday night. Tampa Bay had been -425 to win the series entering that game. Earlier in the series, Washington had been -400 to advance after taking the first two games on the road. The Vegas Golden Knights will finally learn their Stanley Cup Final opponent Wednesday night. 

Washington (-135) 3 Tampa Bay 0 

Shots: Tampa Bay 24, Washington 34

Power Plays: Tampa Bay 0/2, Washington 1/1

Inspired effort from the hosts all night. They won shot count by double digits despite never trailing. Boxscore also shows a 39-19 edge in “hits,” which felt right if you were watching. Washington wasn’t going to follow Winnipeg meekly into the offseason. Though, it was a tighter game that the scoreboard suggests because of a last-minute empty-net goal. 

Shot count advantages for Washington on a per-game basis are now 32-21, 37-35, 38-23, 38-20, 30-22, and 34-24. Tampa Bay is comfortable picking its spots…but better make sure its shots count on home ice. 

Tampa Bay was -180, -200, and -160 in its three prior home games. Expect a line in the lower part of that range Wednesday.  

Were Washington to spring the road upset, the Vegas Golden Knights would have home ice over the Caps in the Finals…and would be a market favorite to lift the cup. If Tampa Bay advances, the Lightning will have home ice over VGK, and would be a slightly bigger favorite.

MLB Monday: Yankees' juggernaut continues to roll with 10-5 win in Texas

Still feels like this is a “market” story that isn’t getting enough attention. Even though the New York Yankees “seem” expensive many nights of the week, their prices may not be expensive enough given the relative dominance this team enjoys in the areas that matter most. 

*Bullpen: arms that will protect leads, particularly late close leads

*Offense: even more dominant than realized

If you only study starting pitchers, the Yankees don’t strike you as having a championship rotation. But those starters only have to be good enough to NOT ruin what the bullpen and offense can do. That’s more than manageable for the men involved. 

A quick note about the offense. Entering the night, the Yankees had the best “park-adjusted” offense in Major League Baseball. Click here to see a sorted look at “Weighted Runs Created Plus at fangraphs…be sure to scroll down. That stat adjusts for the influence of home ballparks. The Yanks are dominating the majors offensively right now. 

And in terms of this series vs. Texas, it’s a matchup of men vs. mice with the bats. That sorted link shows Texas as #29 in the majors even though the Rangers get to use a designated hitter! Texas is worst in the American League, and would be next to last in the NL even with a DH. 

Another way to see that is with “road only” offensive stats in OPS, which is on base percentage plus slugging percentage…

Yankees: .762 OPS on the road 

Rangers: .661 OPS on the road 

So, when you see a line like Yankees -210 on the road vs. Texas…this isn’t a “public” favorite getting too much respect against the decent Rangers team from a few years ago. It’s a current juggernaut that was 21-4 its last 25 games (now 22-4) ready to party in a great hitter’s park that’s helped create illusions about a disappointing host struggling through a lousy season. 

NY Yankees (-210) 10, Texas 5

Total Bases Plus Walks: NY Yankees 35, Texas 20

Starting Pitchers: Tanaka 5 IP, 4 ER, Colon 5.1 IP, 6 ER

Bullpen: NY Yankees 4 IP, 1 ER, Texas 3.2 IP, 4 ER

Great football score in the “offensive base” category to give you a fuller sense of the Yankees power. Bronx Bombers won home run count 5-3, and did a lot more with their production overall. You can see how important the bullpens were here. Neither starting pitcher could get much done on a warm, humid night. Yankees won the first five innings 5-4, the last five innings 5-1. 

Texas is now 7-14 its last 21. Handicappers must be aware of how bad this Rangers offense is this year. (Same with the Colorado Rockies, who aren’t doing much with the bats as a general rule when not playing at altitude in their home games.)

Some important games in the National League divisional races Monday night. Though, they didn’t turn out to be very exciting…

Philadelphia (pick-em) 3, Atlanta 0

Total Bases Plus Walks: Atlanta 6, Philadelphia 18

Starting Pitchers: Foltynewicz 6 IP, 1 ER, Pivetta 7 IP, 0 ER

Bullpen: Atlanta 2 IP, 2 ER, Philadelphia 2 IP, 0 ER

Nobody expected these two teams to be a battling for first place in the NL East in late May! Philadelphia pulled within a half-game of first place Atlanta with the shutout. Braves are 28-18, Phils 28-17. 

All three runs scored on two Philadelphia homers. Nick Pivetta lowered his ERA to 3.23 with those seven shutout innings. His WHIP is down to 1.08. Pivetta has 60 strikeouts in 53 innings. He’s had three straight good starts after a couple of very rough outings. 

Will either of these teams be around come playoff time? For now, the answer is “probably not” because it’s still assumed Washington will storm home to take the division. Nice for baseball fans in these cities to have something to cheer about for the time being. 

Milwaukee (plus 120) 4, Arizona 2

Total Bases Plus Walks: Arizona 10, Milwaukee 15

Starting Pitchers: Greinke 6 IP, 4 ER, Anderson 6 IP, 2 ER

Bullpen: Arizona 2 IP, 0 ER, Milwaukee 3 IP, 0 ER

All but one run scored on homers here. A lot of that going around in the lower scoring games. Biggest news was that Arizona’s horrendous slump continued. Diamondbacks are now 1-11 their last 12 games. AZ has scored only 24 runs in those 12 games! That’s created a very tight race in the NL West that includes Colorado, San Francisco, and the previously slumping Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Milwaukee moves to 29-19 to maintain its short lead in the NL Central over the Cards, Cubs, and Pirates. If you gave up on the MLB season in March because you assumed all the projected powers would coast to the postseason…start watching some games! Interesting races all over the majors. 

All teams discussed today play each other again Tuesday. Joining the schedule will be the Cleveland Indians at the Chicago Cubs. 

College Football: South Point buzzing as Week 1 lines go up

A lot of betting activity Monday at the South Point when college football lines for Week One of the 2018 regular season hit the board. Betting was only open at the windows for the first hour ($1,000 limit per bet, make three bets and go to the end of the line). Wider access was allowed after the first hour via app and at the Rampart, which also uses South Point lines. 

The biggest news was in the Michigan/Notre Dame showcase that will be televised Saturday night Sept. 1 on NBC. 

*Chris Andrews opened the game Notre Dame -7. With home field advantage typically being worth 3 to 3.5 points in college football, that told us Chris and the SP brain trust saw the Irish as at least a field goal better on a neutral field. 

*Bettors hit Michigan HARD. The line would drop all the way down to Notre Dame -1. Given home field value, that told us that sharps believed Michigan was the better team on a neutral field. Odd to see such a big difference of opinion on two prominent programs. 

*And, that move of SIX points is even bigger than it seems at first glance because it started on a key number (seven), and absolutely blew through the most important key number of all (three). This wasn’t the same as a six-point move from 20-26, or 29-35 which would barely move the needle on projected win percentage. Notre Dame was priced at the open to win the game about 70% of the time…before closing at 51% to win. 

Also of note…

*Purdue earned a lot of market respect last season, going 9-4 against the number and winning a bowl game over Arizona. That carried over to its season opener this year on Thursday August 30 vs. Northwestern. The visiting Wildcats opened at -2. Purdue was driven all the way to a favorite at the key number of -3. That represents an expected win percentage of 47% being driven to 57%. 

*Florida State was bet hard in its home opener Labor Day night vs. Virginia Tech. An opener of FSU pick-em (suggesting Virginia Tech would be at least a field goal better on a neutral field) was bet all the way to Seminoles -4. That also blew through the key number of three. In terms of win percentage, the game was bet from a coin flip up to FSU winning about 62% of the time.

More college bets will be available in the coming days. The much anticipated “Game of the Year” lines for marquee matchups all through the season will go up at the South Point Thursday at 10 a.m. Las Vegas time. Then, on Sunday May 27, make sure you’re ready for Regular Season Win totals from Chris Andrews and the gang at 11 a.m. (For more on today’s betting activity, please read this article from Todd Dewey at the Las Vegas Review Journal.)

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